Recently, there’s been a lot of talk about how technology, particularly social media, can be detrimental to mental health. Yes, technology can actually make you sick. There’s also a very physical aspect to it that often goes ignored. If you are an office worker or a gamer who sits at a computer desk for most of the day, then you may be intimately familiar with problems like sore wrists and “tech neck.” As fun and convenient as modern technology can be, it’s important to ensure that we don’t let our dependence on it ruin our health.
Most tech users are likely to experience muscle soreness when using computers or handheld devices. Soreness may heal on its own in a day or two. But if the problem persists, then you would need to seek medical advice. Doctors warn that the way we use tech (in the physical sense), can create or exacerbate certain medical conditions. For example, if you tend to hunch over your computer desk, you may develop a chronically sore back.
On the flip side, the multitude of posture and muscle-related soreness issues can be fixed by changing certain bad habits (like bending over the laptop). Read on to learn more about common physiological problems caused by using technology, along with tips for avoiding them:
Table Of Contents
Sit Right to Avoid Bad Backs
A sore back is possibly the most common complaint computer users have. If you are an office worker who has to sit at a computer desk for 6 or more hours, you may already experience back pain issues. Sore backs when using tech arises mainly from bad posture.
We are likely to slouch over our keyboards when using computers, much like the meme that shows man’s evolution from walking upright to sitting crouched at a desk. The trick to avoiding perpetual back soreness is to sit properly without placing excessive strain on the spine. Now you may think this means you need to sit upright. That’s not true. When you sit upright, there’s more weight put on the discs in your spine. Rather, you should sit in a more relaxed position.
Finding the right chair with comfortable back support is crucial here. Your chair should support your back in full and it should be easy for you to lean back. Additionally, your feet should be placed on the floor so that your knees are at a 90-degree angle. This also reduces the strain on your spine.
Don’t cross your legs when you are sitting down at the computer. This increases the strain on your back and also affects your pelvic muscles. Sit with your feet firmly on the floor.
Make sure you maintain the right posture even when using your phone. You may instinctively go back to slouching when using a handheld device. Teach yourself to maintain the right posture at all times to avoid lifelong back pain.
Looking Down at the Screen Strains Your Neck and Back Muscles
If you are reading this while sitting at a computer desk, pay attention to the position of your neck. Are you leaning forward when reading the screen? If you are using a smartphone or a tablet, then you are most likely to look down at the screen. Looking down requires significant work from your neck muscles. While this doesn’t cause strain when you are looking down at something for a few minutes, staring down at your screen for hours on end would result in what most of us know as “tech neck.”
The aforementioned “tech neck” causes the muscles in your neck and shoulder areas to become sore or stiff. Those who suffer from this condition may occasionally feel pain as well. Holding your neck in a certain position for long hours also causes problems for your shoulders and back. If you have creaky shoulder joints or a sore back, your neck position may be to blame.
The muscles in your neck region contract when you look down. So when you are looking down at a screen for an extended period, they stay contracted. That’s why you end up experiencing pain or soreness. You may not really feel it, but your neck muscles hold up a lot of weight when you look down. When you are looking down at a 45-degree angle, it’s akin to your neck muscles holding a 50lb bag of rice. The bigger the angle, the heavier the bag.
You can largely avoid this problem by adopting a proper posture when looking down at a screen. At any rate, doctors advice against slouching, which causes your neck to strain at an uncomfortable angle. It’s highly recommended that you sit in a reclining position. If the back of the chair is reclined at a 25 to 30-degree angle, your neck position would naturally become more upright. That means it’s not holding as much weight as when you are slouching down.
It’s very important to adopt the right posture to avoid neck pain because, in severe situations, there’s a risk of pinched nerves. That means you may experience issues like tingling sensations all the way down to your arms. You can avoid expensive medical treatments for “tech neck” simply by reclining in your chair.
Position the Mouse and Keyboard Closer to You to Avoid Strain
Other than the neck and the back, some of us also experience muscle pain in the wrists thanks to using computers. Computer mice are a major culprit for causing sore wrists and aches in the arm. Hardcore gamers are very likely to experience wrist-area muscle soreness thanks largely to monotonous mouse use.
You can strain your shoulders or arm when using a mouse when it’s placed far away from you. It’s the same with keyboards. If you have to reach out to the mouse or the keyboard, then your muscles have to work harder to maintain position. For a better posture when using a mouse and a keyboard, bring these items closer to you. Then you don’t have to overreach.
The shape of the mouse could potentially affect your hand muscles negatively. If the mouse is difficult to grip, you might strain the wrist muscles. Using a mouse can be particularly hard for those with carpal tunnel syndrome. In addition to maintaining the right posture, make sure you purchase ergonomic external mice to prevent wrist or arm strain.
Protect Your Eyes by Adjusting Screen Brightness
It’s not just the muscles on your limbs that can be strained due to excessive technology use. Don’t forget that staring at bright screens for extended periods of time can strain your eyes too. Eye strain can cause headaches, those not caused by social media at least. You can save yourself a world of pain by properly adjusting the screen brightness on your computer or smartphone.
On computers, you can manually adjust the brightness by pressing down particular keys. But brightness isn’t the only issue here. The color temperature on the screen can affect your eyes as well. You may like high color temperatures for rendering sharper images. However, bright displays may take a toll on your eyesight. Therefore, go to the display settings of your computer’s graphics unit to adjust the color temperature. On Macs, you can easily adjust color temperature to “night mode” when it’s dark outside.
Do the same with smartphone screens as well. Don’t stare at the display of a handheld device at night without adjusting brightness, contrast and color temperature. For extra caution, wear glasses that filter out the “blue light” that computer screens generate. Take the necessary steps to protect your eyes so you will not regret your habits in the future.
Do Move Around
Sitting in the same position for more than an hour is harmful to any muscle in your body. Therefore, move around. No, you don’t need to exercise in the middle of the office. Just getting up and walking to the printer is enough to relax your limbs. You are most likely to experience soreness when your muscles remain in the same position for hours. Even a simple movement like standing up can work miracles to get blood flow back into your muscles.
If you can find some privacy, stretching is a great option to relax overworked muscle groups in your body. Stretch your shoulders and back periodically at work. Do it at least once or twice per day to reduce the likelihood of soreness. Exercising regularly when you are not at a computer is a great way to keep those muscles in shape.
When to See a Doctor
The above tips should help you avoid muscle pain by and large. Do note that if you have soreness or stiffness issues that last long, it might be time to see a doctor. Report chronic muscle pain in any area to a doctor immediately.
In the meantime, use the above tips to improve your existing computer or smartphone posture. Sit in the right way and always look up at screens, not down. Invest in a good chair and ergonomic mice or keyboards. With these very simple changes, you can use your computer or phone without risking a chronic condition that will affect you for the rest of your life.